“There were like bodies floating past my front door,” one New Orleans resident said weeping. “We did the best we could.”
The masses remain shocked, stunned and saddened by the annihilation left by Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Alabama. The Hip-Hop community was built on a foundation of struggle and anguish, but the destruction
The lull is over.
Various notables are leveraging their star power to raise money or help in the relief effort. Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z, David Banner, Master P, James Prince of Rap-A-Lot Records and others are spearheading a variety of projects aimed at aiding those displaced by the hurricane.
Moguls Diddy and Jay-Z are contributing to the effort by donating $1 million to the American Red Cross. Furthermore, both men run apparel companies and will contribute clothing from their Sean John and Rocawear collections for those in dire need.
Diddy told AllHipHop.com, “This needs to happen. We want to do more in the future, because this is going to be a long process (of rebuilding). This is something that we are doing for our people. Those are our bothers and sisters our family. It hurts.”
“We, as African American men and leaders of our community felt it was a necessity to join forces and help,” Jay-Z agreed via a statement. “Diddy and I are committed to supporting our people in whichever way we can." Combs and Jay-Z expect to present their $1 million dollar check during a September 9 telethon that cable network BET is organizing in conjunction with the American Red Cross.
Many had to evacuate their homes, leaving everything but the bare necessities behind. New Orleans started evacuating people from the city on August 28 in preparation for Hurricane Katrina, which struck the city the next day on August 29. The storm imposed its mighty will on those that didn’t flee the city. The total damage assessment to New Orleans and the surrounding areas could top $25 billion. Rappers and entertainers are already lining up to assist fund raising and contributing to the relief effort.
Although some entertainers are eager to help, some within the African American community believe there is a general lack of backing, concern and support from the federal government.
"If we [as the United States] could put a million people, a million solders in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can definitely put the same effort towards New Orleans, and Mississippi," Juvenile said at a press conference hosted by BET and The American Red Cross, "They have the ability to fly down and save people. All I’m asking is please take some time out and put forth the same effort – if not more – towards [helping] our country, because [we are in] the United States and we are trying to make it."
Bad Boy artist Young City (aka Chopper) echoed the sentiments of his New Orleans brethren.
"I just think that it’s real crazy that our government ain’t kicking in to send something to New Orleans." Young City told Allhiphop.com, "He’s [President Bush] talking about how we need to help people in Iraq but he isn’t even concerned with people in our own country."
With a prevailing dissatisfaction, the masses within New Orleans have started to march in protest, all the while being wrought with intolerable health conditions, chaos, looting and even reported acts of rape. BET’s live telethon has already secured talent like David Banner, Jay-Z, Juvenile, Diddy, Common, Stevie Wonder and others like Omarion. The event is in conjunction with the National Urban League, American Red Cross, Warner Music Group and Essence magazine to produce and raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Others like Banner are organizing independent concerts to raise money for local aid.
James Prince, CEO of Rap-A-Lot Records, has opened a shelter in Houston, Texas to house those in need of a place to stay and Master P. and his wife Sonya Miller announced the formation of Rescue One, an organization dedicated to helping residents cope with the aftermath of the hurricane.
Master P, reared in New Orleans’ Calliope projects, explained, “We are contributing our own money toward items such as food, clothes and shoes and we are also reaching out to corporations for donations. Sonya is reaching out to companies for product donations for mothers, like Pampers and Gerber baby food, as well as soliciting donations of items helpful to ladies and girls.”
Juvenile, who helped popularize New Orleans with his Cash Money Records brethren, was visibly shaken when speaking of the Hurricane and its devastating effect on the city and surrounding areas.
“I am obviously devastated by my personal loss but thank God that I was able to get my family out to safety while many families were not so fortunate,” Juvenile said. “In the aftermath thousands of people in New Orleans and Mississippi are struggling to survive without food, shelter, running water or a way to contact loved ones.”
Master P. told the Associated Press that his uncle, father-in-law and sister-in-law were still missing. New Orleans natives Baby, Juvenile, Lil’ Wayne, Young City and countless others have lost their homes, businesses, studios and other personal assets due to the horrific storm. The United States announced today (September 2) that they would seek a total of $10 billion dollars in funding to rebuild the flooded city.
Comedian Chris Rock expressed skepticism at the current relief effort that has and contrasted it with the war abroad.
“We are rebuilding Iraq right now and I don’t know if four guys with box cutters will fly a plane into a building again, probably not,” Rock said. “But I do know if we don’t take care of these millions of people America will be destroyed, because this will bring the whole country down."
Thousands of domestic refugees from Louisiana are currently being transported from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. According to President Bush, The Coast Guard has rescued almost 2,000 people of the thousands in need. President Bush stressed patience, noting that the storm had battered four states and said the cleanup “will take years.”
"We’re dealing with one of the worst national disasters in our nation’s history," Bush said. "This is going to be a difficult road."
Many entertainers are still reeling from the effects of the Katrina and are still searching for family members. Fats Domino, the pioneering R&B singer was recently found alive and well after missing reports surfaced. Others haven’t been so lucky.
"I got fifty cousins down there now," Snoop’s younger brother Bing Worthington told Allhiphop.com. “My family is from Macomb, Mississippi and my grandmother is in Jackson, Mississippi. This is touching home because Macomb has been hit. No power, no water, no nothing. It’s not as bad as Louisiana, but they been hit. Everybody’s feeling the wrath."
Images of officials in the Bush Administration vacationing and accusations that Bush undercut flood control funding for the city angered some. The president cut funding that would have improved the levee holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, according to a report in the Washington Post. Katrina smashed through the embankment flooding New Orleans in a manner never seen before.
Furthermore, Democrats have accused Bush of a slow response to the hurricane, which initially punched through the city on Monday August 30. According to reports, Bush didn’t return to Washington from his Texas ranch until Wednesday afternoon.
"I seen [George W. Bush] walk out [on television] with a dog. He was on vacation!" Bing continued. "When things go wrong, no one’s around.”
Aside from the issues with the president, Sean “Diddy” Combs took issue with the broad media portrayal of African Americans. The Bad Boy mogul told AllHipHop.com, “If [I] ain’t got nothing to eat…I’m gonna loot. If I was out there, I’m gonna loot believe that. If I got my kids, I’m going to get some water, something to eat, some sheets…those are necessities,” Diddy said. “I ain’t seen nobody carrying TV’s.”
Even before the tragedy called Katrina, New Orleans had societal problems that received little press. The city like other cities considered to be the “Deep South,” has the lowest reported high school graduate rates, the highest number of teen pregnancy and a dismal employment ratio.
“These places were horrible before any of this happened, have you been to New Orleans outside of Bourbon Street?” Chris Rock asked rhetorically. “All I have to say is that everyone needs to send as much money as they can humanly can to the United States Red Cross.”
Master P said he and Baby of Cash Money never spoke prior to the crisis in their hometown. The New No Limit mogul said adversity brings out an opportunity for the Hip-Hop community and the general population to unite.
"We have all been in so much competition and this is the only thing that brought us together. It ain’t about how many records you sell, how many movies you make, how many cars, you have,” he said. “All of that is irrelevant when you are talking about how many lives we can save now. It’s about how many times we can come together and do our part."